How to Install a Custom Home Theater System




If you’re keen on watching movies at home in as good an environment as in the local cinema, find a spare room and add your own home theater. This article provides a comprehensive guide to designing and building your own custom home theater.




  1. Determine if the size of the room you’re using for the home theater will allow for a projection system or not. Projectors have different “throw” ranges. The “throw” is determined by the distance the projector is from the screen.
    • Look up the throw ratio of your projector either online prior to purchasing it, or in the manual if you already own one or you’re shopping in-store or use the Tool located on Projector-Centrals website. Throw Ratio Calculator
  2. Design the layout. You do not want the projector to be close to a window or doorway. If there are windows in the room, the best possible scenario would be for the projector and screen to be perpendicular to the windows or doors.
    • Avoid having the projector firing towards or away from a window.
  3. Select your preferred seating arrangements. Choose whatever suits your particular style. This is where it pays to have a creative imagination (and a little extra money). You may want to build a platform to give your theater elevated seating. Such a platform can also double as a place to hide the subwoofer.
  4. Choose the speaker placement. Speakers should be placed in these positions: left front, center, right front, right rear, left rear, and subwoofer. If you’re using a 7.1 system, then add right surround and left surround speakers. Make sure not to place the rear speakers too low on the wall when using in-wall speakers, as this could cause the sound to be too loud in certain scenes and drown out the center channel speaker.
  5. Choose a location for all of the home theater components. Place the components in the same room that you’re building the theater in; however, if you’re tight on space these components may be remotely located in another room.
    • If you’re remotely locating the equipment, don’t forget that you’re going to need to set up either an IR remote control system with repeater or an RF remote control with RF base station to allow for control of the AV equipment.
  6. Start building. Frame out the seating platform using 2″x6″ (5cm x 15cm) studs. Ensure that this is extremely sturdy because this platform will have 4 or 6 chairs and the weight of 4 to 6 people on it. Also cover the platform with 7/16″ (11.11mm) OSB (oriented strand board). Make sure that you use liquid nails before you nail the decking on the platform. This will eliminate any rattling from the subwoofers.
    • You may decide to frame out a false wall where the projection screen is going. If so, do not recess the screen more than about 10″ or 12″ (25.4cm or 30.48cm) max; any more than that will cause an annoying reflection on the wall from the images on the screen.
    • Now is the time to frame out a cabinet for your equipment and a housing for your projector.
  7. Wire your home theater. Start with the speaker wires, audio/video cables, HDMI, and any other low voltage cables like cat5. Make sure that you do not run these wires parallel to any electrical (Romex) wires. Install a few can lights and wall sconces on dimmer switches to give it more of a “theater feel”.
    • If you’re not an electrician, hire one! Electricity is dangerous and it can kill you! In some jurisdictions, it is illegal to do your own electrical work, so know the rules.
  8. Choose your finishes. Get creative here as well. Use a waynes coating (wainscoating) and crown molding to give your theater a more expensive feel. Paint the walls and the ceiling, you may choose whatever color you like for the walls, just as long as it has no sheen.
    • All paint should be flat to minimize reflection. Sherwin Williams Cashmere (recommended)
    • The ceiling should be painted black.
    • Use carpet instead of tile or hardwood. Carpet will help absorb excess sound and will improve the sound quality of the room.
  9. Now all that you have left is installing your equipment and furniture.
    • Add the chairs (comfortable ones, of course).
    • Add the screen.
    • Invite your friends over and watch some movies!